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Employee Voices: BMO Volunteer Day in Chicago

June 23, 2019 | Giving and sponsorships

When I was hired at BMO in 2011, I was very impressed with BMO’s involvement in the community. I have steadily been a volunteer in the Chicagoland area for almost 30 years. During my interview process at BMO, it was so important to me to hear stories about BMO’s commitment to the communities they serve, and to hear about Volunteer Day. It’s difficult to wrap my head around the fact that I just participated in my eighth Volunteer Day. After participating for two years as a volunteer, I volunteered to be a Project Coordinator, which I have done for the past six years. I need to give a shout-out to my Employee Giving lead, Karen Ketchen, who continually assists me with all aspects of the moving parts to make every Volunteer Day the success it is!

I started the morning of June 11th by visiting our local Starbucks across the street, and was immediately greeted with a wave of blue t-shirts standing in line. It was so inspiring to approach BMO employees and learn about the variety of projects they had volunteered with. Now that is how you start Volunteer Day in Chicago!

2019 brought a brand new project to Chicago headquarters. United Way fights for the health, education, financial stability and the safety of every person in neighborhoods across the region. They do this by collaborating with people, resources and community partners through their Neighborhood Network initiative in ten of Chicago’s most challenged communities. One of these neighborhoods, Blue Island/Robbins, was the recipient of a total of 10,000 snack packs from both the Chicago location (6,000 snack packs) and Naperville, IL (4,000 snack packs). Our Chicago Snack Pack project consisted of four one-hour shifts in the Chicago executive dining room, where our volunteers made 1,500 snack packs every hour.  We had some great music and lots of fun to channel the work load for each of those shifts. The snack packs consisted of three food items: GoldFish crackers, apple sauce and granola bar.

Watching those 6,000 snack packs being wheeled out of the executive dining room on to the trucks and knowing that the very next day, those snack packs would be put into the hands of many took my breath away.   My rep from United Way, Ashley, told me that the 2019 BMO project was the biggest one she’s ever managed! Can you imagine what 10,000 snack packs full of food look like? Only BMO’s resources and incredible employees can pull off such a success!

United Way was just blown away by the teamwork they witnessed and we all had a great laugh at the end of the day.  At the beginning of each hour, Ashley, gave instructions on how to put the snack packs together and during each shift, our BMO employees came up with more effective ways to get those snack packs done. Watching the four separate teams work together and bending the instructions just a bit left us all feeling so proud.

After eight years of participating in the Chicago project, I’ve gotten to meet and to know a lot of amazing people. Our Chicago volunteer team is so dedicated that I start getting calls the beginning of May: “Mary, when is registration?” “Mary, when can I volunteer?” “Mary, I want to be sure I get in on the Chicago project.” “Mary, I need a t-shirt.” Our Chicago project is maxed out within 48 hours after registration opens. I get such a feeling of pride when I see that all four shifts are completely booked. That in itself speaks volumes about how our BMO employees feel about such an important day in the year.

Mary Paxson has been part of BMO’s Community Giving Department for eight years, and has been a proud volunteer in Chicago dating back to 1990, when she first helped out in the nursery of a local hospital.


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